An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)

Sponsor

Karina Gould  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to

(a) enact an advertising and reporting regime for fundraising events attended by Ministers, party leaders or leadership contestants; and

(b) harmonize the rules applicable to contest expenses of nomination contestants and leadership contestants with the rules applicable to election expenses of candidates.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 13, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Feb. 6, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)
Feb. 6, 2018 Failed Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) (report stage amendment)
Feb. 6, 2018 Failed Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing) (report stage amendment)
June 15, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)

(Bill C-21. On the Order: Government Orders:)

May 9, 2018—Third reading of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act—The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

(Bill, as amended, read the third time and passed on division)

(Bill C-68: On the Order: Government orders:)

June 13, 2018—Third reading of Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence—The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

(Motion for third reading deemed moved, bill read the third time and passed on division)

(Bill C-62. On the Order: Government Orders:)

June 11, 2018—Consideration at report stage of C-62, an act to amend the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act and other acts, as reported by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities without amendment—The President of the Treasury Board.

(Bill concurred in, read the third time and passed on division)

(Bill C-64. On the Order: Government Orders:)

June 19, 2018—Third reading of Bill C-64, an act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels and salvage operations—The Minister of Transport.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

(Motion No. 24. On the Order: Government Orders:)

May 28, 2018—Ways and Means motion to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting.

(Motion agreed to on division)

(Bill C-82. On the Order: Introduction of Bills:)

May 28, 2018—First reading of Bill C-82, An Act to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting—Minister of Finance

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

(Bill C-46. On the Order: Government Orders:)

June 14, 2018—Consideration of the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts—The Minister of Justice.

(Motion agreed to on division)

(Bill C-50. On the Order: Government Orders:)

June 14, 2018—Consideration of the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing)—The Minister of Democratic Institutions.

(Motion agreed to on division)

June 4, 2018—That the 64th Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs entitled, “Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Commons: Sexual Harassment between Members”, presented to the House on Monday, June 4, 2018, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

June 19, 2018—Notice of Motion—That, pursuant to Standing Order 111.1(2) and in accordance with subsection 79.1(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1, the House approve the appointment of Yves Giroux as Parliamentary Budget Officer for a term of seven years—Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

(Motion agreed to on division)

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2018 / 9 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe if you seek it you will find unanimous consent for the following motion.

I move:

That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, following routine proceedings on Wednesday, June 20, 2018:

(a) Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act, be deemed read a third time and passed on division;

(b) Bill C-62, An Act to amend the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act and other Acts, be deemed concurred in at the report stage on division and deemed read a third time and passed on division;

(c) Bill C-64, An Act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels and salvage operations, be deemed read a third time and passed;

(d) Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, be deemed read a third time and passed on division;

(e) Ways and Means No. 24 be deemed adopted on division, and that the Bill standing on the Order Paper in the name of the Minister of Finance entitled, An Act to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting, be deemed read a first time;

(f) the motion respecting Senate Amendments to Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of the Minister of Justice, be deemed adopted on division;

(g) the motion respecting Senate Amendments to Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), standing on the Notice Paper in the name of the Minister of Democratic Institutions, be deemed adopted on division;

(h) the 64th Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs entitled, Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Commons: Sexual Harassment between Members, presented to the House on Monday June 4, 2018, be concurred in;

(i) the following motion be deemed adopted on division: “That, pursuant to Standing Order 111.1(2) and in accordance with subsection 79.1(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. P-1, the House approve the appointment of Yves Giroux as Parliamentary Budget Officer for a term of seven years”; and

(j) the House shall stand adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2018, provided that, for the purposes of any Standing Order, it shall be deemed to have been adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and be deemed to have sat on Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22, 2018.

June 5th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Co-Founder, Democracy Watch

Duff Conacher

I'm acknowledging that these gifts.... Yes, sure. I acknowledged this last time when I was here on Bill C-50. That's why they should be restricted. When you talk about restricting third party citizen groups with respect to how high a donation they could have as the Public Policy Forum recommended in its recent report, you then also have to look at foreign-owned corporations and their ability to do an internal transfer of money to support what they do as a third party.

It's an area that should be looked at, but the place to start is with disclosure of how much is being spent by various interest groups in between elections on everything. You're going to have it for elections, although after the fact; it should be before the fact. Then we can start talking about whether we should limit donations to citizen groups for certain purposes.

June 5th, 2018 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to both our witnesses for joining us today.

Mr. Conacher, I know you were before the committee to talk about Bill C-50, but I don't recall your joining us to talk about the leadership commission debate, the organizing commission, but I know you mentioned it in your opening comments. We did table a report back in March. During our process of deliberating on that matter, we were informed by Andy Fillmore that the government simply wouldn't have time to introduce legislation to create such a commission, so rather they will likely do that through a grants and contributions scheme.

We have yet to see anything come of that, but I would be interested in your thoughts on the matter. Would a grants and contributions model be supported by Democracy Watch, or would you rather see something with actual legislative backbone to create such an institution?

June 5th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Duff Conacher Co-Founder, Democracy Watch

Thank you very much.

Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to testify before you today.

I am testifying here in my role as co-founder of Democracy Watch, which, if you are not aware, is a citizen advocacy group. We've been working since 1993 to make Canada the world's leading democracy, pushing for changes to require everyone in politics to be honest, ethical, open, and representative, and to prevent waste. A total of 190,000 people have signed up to send a letter or petition in one or another of our campaigns from across Canada.

Today, my submission is based largely, as Mr. Gunn mentioned, on earlier submissions made to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

Bill C-76 makes many good changes, reversing many of the unfair changes made by the 2014 so-called Fair Elections Act, but the Democracy Watch position is that the negative effects of many of the changes in that act were exaggerated. As a result, the reversal of those changes will likely have little overall effect on what actually happens in elections. Like the 2014 Fair Elections Act, Bill C-76 unfortunately doesn't live up to its name. It's called the elections modernization act, but like the Fair Elections Act, it allows many old-fashioned, unfair, and undemocratic election practices to continue, as follows:

Number one, of course, the vote-counting system doesn't count votes in a fair way, and usually produces false majority governments. It also doesn't allow voters to vote “none of the above”—a key option that voters should have, and already have in four provinces—and it doesn't fully fix election dates, as the U.K. has, to stop unfair snap election calls.

Number two, it continues to allow the baiting of voters with false promises in ads. The Canada Elections Act prohibits inducing voters to vote for anyone by—and this is the actual wording—“any pretence or contrivance”. However, the commissioner of Canada elections refuses to apply that measure to a blatantly false promise or false statement made during an election. A clearly worded “honest promises” requirement, with significant penalties, is clearly needed. It's the number one hot-button issue for voters: even if they vote for the party that wins, they don't get what they voted for because of blatantly false promises.

While clause 61 of the bill adds some specifics to the measures in sections 91 and 92 of the Canadian Elections Act concerning false statements about candidates, the measures actually significantly narrow the range of prohibited false statements. That is a move in the wrong direction. Dishonesty in elections should be broadly defined and discouraged. It's a fundamental voter rights issue. They have the right to an honest campaign so that they know what they're voting for honestly, and misleaders, as opposed to leaders, should be discouraged with significant penalties.

Related to that, the bill does not do nearly enough to stop the new form of false claims, secret false online election ads, including by foreigners. Bill C-76 trusts social media companies to self-regulate, only holding them accountable if they “knowingly” allow a foreign ad, but not saying anything at all in terms of their knowingly or in any other way allowing a false domestic ad. Again, clause 61 narrows the definition of “false statements”, but it still would be illegal to make a false statement about a candidate.

In terms of the “knowingly” standard, the social media companies will easily be able to come up with evidence that they didn't know an ad had been placed. It's not going to be enforceable. They'll get off every time, so that doesn't discourage them from allowing secret, false, online election ads by people in the country or foreigners.

Media and social media companies should be required to report all details about every election-related ad to Elections Canada during the six months leading up to an election, so that Elections Canada can check whether the ad is false, whether it exceeds the third party spending limits, and whether it is paid for by a foreigner. All those three things are illegal, but if Elections Canada can't see those ads, which they can't because they're micro-targeted, how are they going to enforce those laws against false and foreign-sponsored ads, and ads that exceed the third party spending limits?

Don't trust the social media companies to self-regulate in this area. Require them to report every ad to Elections Canada. During those six months, empower Elections Canada to order a clearly false or illegal ad because it's foreign or exceeds the spending limits to be deleted from a media and social media site and impose significant fines on the violators.

In terms of what the bill also does not address, annual donations are still too high. Bill C-50 doesn't do anything about this. As a result, the parties all rely on a small pool of large donors who donate thousands of dollars or more. That facilitates funnelling as SNC-Lavalin was caught doing. It also facilitates lobbyists bundling donations to buy influence. That's all undemocratic and unfair.

There are seven practices the bill does not address that should be switched to be overseen by Elections Canada or other watchdogs.

One is unfair nomination races. Elections Canada should be running all of them. The reform act has not changed anything. All the parties have handed back to party leaders the power to approve election candidates, sometimes with someone in their party headquarters' office as a screen.

Another is unfair leadership races. Elections Canada should be overseeing them.

Another is questionable auditing. Elections Canada should be auditing parties, candidates, and third parties.

Another is unfair election debates. Elections Canada or a commission should be running them with their rules. Hopefully a bill making that change will come soon, before the next election.

Another is biased election polling station supervision. The ruling party and second party choose those people and can force the returning officer to appoint whom they want. Elections Canada should be appointing all the polling station returning officers.

There is the questionable use of voter information. The bill does not extend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, to the parties. The law should be extended to the parties with the Privacy Commissioner doing enforcement.

Another is unfair government advertising. Hopefully there will be a bill coming on that as well with the Auditor General or Elections Canada empowered to stop any ads that are partisan in the six months leading up to an election, and a full prohibition on government ads during the three months before an election.

There is the third party spending limits area. There's no way to stop Canadian businesses and citizen groups receiving foreign money from entities that frees up other money they have to use for third party election advocacy activities, unless you're going to prohibit foreign-owned businesses in Canada and foreign contributions to citizen groups completely. This bill does go quite far in requiring the separate bank account to be set up. I think the problem with it is it's discrimination against citizen groups that take donations versus unions and corporations that are also third parties. It's very easy for them to shift money into this bank account, but a third party is going to have to do special fundraising to get money into that account if it's a citizen group. It's going to make it much more difficult for citizen groups. They are allowed to donate into the account from their own funds that they may have gathered throughout the year, obviously not foreign funds. I think the overall effect is going to make it much more difficult for citizen groups to gather any funds compared to unions or corporations.

The disclosure of the reports and the limits are all good as well, but you need a limit on government advertising as well to make it fair for everyone leading up to the pre-writ drop period and the election period. Overall, I don't see any reason to increase the third party limit during the election period. That's a bad idea. That's a move in an undemocratic direction because it would allow wealthier interests to spend more. The cost of online ads is much less than traditional advertising was when the limits were first set. Even though the new limit covers more expenses, including surveys and going door to door and things like that kind of outreach, I don't see a reason to increase the limit. I think it's a move in a bad direction. How was the limit chosen? How were all the limits chosen? Are they based on anything? Are they based on looking at what parties spent on ads in the pre-writ period in the 2015 election, before the 2011 election?

It's the same with third parties. Is it based on anything that's been reported to Elections Canada? I know that the figures in 2004 limiting third parties were arbitrary, but now we have some track record and I think it should be examined.

I'll just finish with this point. The limits as stated in the government's backgrounder are not the same as what's in the bill. I'm quite confused by huge discrepancies in the amounts. The pre-writ limit for party spending says $1.5 million in the backgrounder, but in the bill, it says $1.1 million. In the backgrounder, it says it's adjusted for 2019 figures based on inflation, which is 30% inflation which we don't have now. All the limits are the same. For third parties, there's a $300,000 gap between what it says in the bill and the backgrounder, and for a riding there's a $3,000 gap.

Firearms ActPrivilegeOral Questions

May 29th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, turning back to today's question of privilege, I am rising because these online government publications presume the adoption of Bill C-71 by Parliament. There is no caveat given by the RCMP that the legislation is subject to parliamentary approval, and there is no acknowledgement of the parliamentary process at all, in fact. This, in my view, is nothing but a contempt of Parliament.

Page 14 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, second edition, explains contempt as follows:

As in the case of a Superior Court, when by some act or word a person disobeys or is openly disrespectful of the authority of the House of Commons or Senate or of their lawful commands, that person is subject to being held in contempt of the House of Commons or Senate as the case may be; therefore it will be seen that the Senate and House of Commons have the power or right to punish actions that, while not appearing to be breaches of any specific privilege, are offences against their authority or dignity.

Page 81 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, adds:

The House of Commons enjoys very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of its contempt power. In other words, the House may consider any misconduct to be contempt and may deal with it accordingly.

Let me read a sampling of the content found in “Special Business Bulletin No. 93”.

To begin with, we see:

Because not all CZ firearms will be impacted by changes in their classification, business will need to determine if their firearm( s) will be affected by these changes.

Bill C-71 also lists a number of specific Swiss Arms (SA) firearm that will also become prohibited.

If you own CZ/SA firearms, the steps below can help you identify whether your inventory of firearms is affected by Bill C-71. They explain the grandfathering requirements and how to avoid being in illegal possession of a firearm.

That language is quite clear. It is “will be impacted”, “will...become prohibited”, and “is affected”, not “could be”, “may become”, or “might be affected”.

Later in the bulletin, we read:

Business owners will continue to be authorized to transfer any and all impacted CZ or SA firearms in their inventory to properly licenced individuals, until the relevant provisions of Bill C-71 come into force. For an individual owner to be eligible for grandfathering certain requirements must be met by June 30, 2018.

Now, before one might think that the language about the bill's coming into force possibly concedes the need for parliamentary approval, let me continue reading:

The proposed changes to classification status for CZ/SA firearms listed in Bill C-71 will come into force on a date to be determined by the Governor in Council. This date is yet to be determined.

It is my respectful submission that any conditional language one might read or infer in that document is left, in the mind of the reader, to be, therefore, a matter of cabinet discretion, not Parliament's.

Turning to a second document, entitled “How does Bill C- 71 affect individuals?”, we see additional presumptuous language. A lot of it mirrors what I quoted from “Special Business Bulletin No. 93”.

Other passages, however, include:

If your SA firearm was listed in Bill C-71, it will be classified as a prohibited firearm.

It says, “was listed”, as if Bill C-71 was a document from the past, not a bill currently before a parliamentary committee.

Later we read:

To qualify for grandfathering of your currently non-restricted or restricted CZ/SA firearm, the following criteria must be met....

There follows a list of details for firearms owners to meet, which, just coincidentally, happens to be laid out in clause 3 of Bill C-71, yet there is no indication that these are proposals before Parliament, let alone in need of parliamentary sanction to be enforced.

A leading ruling on the presumption of parliamentary decision-making concerning legislation is the ruling of Mr. Speaker Fraser, on October 10, 1989, at page 4457 of the Debates, in respect of the implementation of the goods and services tax.

The impugned advertisements in that case contained similarly unequivocal language, such as “Canada's Federal Sales Tax System will change. Please save this notice”, and, the GST “will replace the existing federal sales tax”.

In this instance, Mr. Speaker Fraser did not find the prima facie case of contempt. However, he could not have been more clear when he stated, and I quote:

I want the House to understand very clearly that if your Speaker ever has to consider a situation like this again, the Chair will not be as generous. This is a case which, in my opinion, should never recur. I expect the Department of Finance and other departments to study this ruling carefully and remind everyone within the Public Service that we are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy, nor a so-called administrative democracy....

A vote on this issue might not support the very important message which your Speaker wishes to convey and which I hope will be well considered in the future by governments, departmental officials and advertisement agencies retained by them. This advertisement may not be a contempt of the House in the narrow confines of a procedural definition, but it is, in my opinion, ill-conceived and it does a great disservice to the great traditions of this place. If we do not preserve these great traditions, our freedoms are at peril and our conventions become a mockery. I insist, and I believe I am supported by the majority of moderate and responsible members on both sides of this House, that this ad is objectionable and should never be repeated.

Subsequent rulings have distinguished other factual scenarios from the 1989 ruling, and, I submit, are distinguishable from the circumstances I am rising on today.

On March 13, 1997, at page 8988 of the Debates, Speaker Parent held that a policy-promotion campaign concerning anti-tobacco legislation did not give rise to a prima facie contempt, but the Chair added the following advice, and I quote:

...where the government issues communications to the public containing allusions to measures before the House, it would be advisable to choose words and terms that leave no doubt as to the disposition of these measures.

That advice was put into practice by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in its promotional materials respecting Bill C-50, leading to the 2008 ruling by Mr. Speaker Milliken, which I cited in my opening comments, that there was no prima facie contempt.

More recently, your immediate predecessor ruled, on September 28, 2011, at page 1576 of the Debates, that a procurement solicitation for advisory services for the implications of certain scenarios for the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly was “part of a planning process that might be expected in contemplating the possibility of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.”

Last year, Mr. Speaker, you ruled on May 29, 2017, at page 11560 of the Debates, that advertisements to hire the leadership of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, then a matter before the House as part of a budget implementation bill, was not a contempt, because some, but not all, of the government's job postings conceded that parliamentary approval was required. In the ruling, the Chair said:

I was looking for any suggestion that parliamentary approval was being publicized as either unnecessary or irrelevant, or in fact already obtained. Otherwise put, I was looking for any indication of an offence against or disrespect of the authority or dignity of the House and its members.

As it turns out, I think the most relevant ruling in respect of the facts before us today is that of Mr. Speaker Stockwell, in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, given on January 22, 1997, in respect of a government pamphlet explaining municipal reform legislation, not unlike the purpose of the RCMP' s internet guidance. In finding a prima facie contempt, Mr. Speaker Stockwell held:

...I am very concerned by the Ministry pamphlet, which is worded more definitively than the commercial and the press release. To name but a few examples, the brochure claims that “new city wards will be created”, that “work on building the new city will start in 1997”, and that “[t]he new City of Toronto will reduce the number of municipal politicians.

How is one to interpret such unqualified claims? In my opinion, they convey the impression that the passage of the requisite legislation was not necessary or was a foregone conclusion, or that the assembly and the Legislature had no pro forma tangential, even inferior role in the legislative and lawmaking process, and in doing so, they appear to diminish the respect that is due to this House. I would not have come to this view had these claims or proposals—and that is all they are—been qualified by a statement that they would only become law if and when the Legislature gave its stamp of approval to them.

In the RCMP documents, we are not talking about standing up a crown corporation, or hiring a government consultant, or even promoting an anti-smoking campaign, nor are we talking about new tax rules or changes to local government. We are talking about a publication that gives advice on how to avoid becoming a criminal. How much more serious can one get than that? This is not hyperbole.

One of the passages I referred to earlier said, “They explain the grandfathering requirements and how to avoid being in illegal possession of a firearm.” Another was, “lf your SA firearm was listed in Bill C-71, it will be classified as a prohibited firearm.”

The unlawful possession of a firearm can lead to a jail sentence of up to five years. That is pretty serious stuff.

Conservatives have been clear and on the record about their concerns about the RCMP arbitrarily reclassifying firearms. That is why the previous government gave the Governor in Council an oversight role. Basically, what happens is that law-abiding owners who follow all the rules and regulations with respect to their firearms are suddenly, because of one meeting of some bureaucrats, declared criminals for possession of an illegal weapon, when they have owned and used that weapon for sport shooting or hunting for many years. Suddenly, with one blanket move, what dozens or hundreds of thousands of people already possess is somehow deemed illegal.

We have seen this disrespect for law-abiding Canadians from the RCMP before. The RCMP has acted in contempt of Parliament several times before. There is an institutional history of it, as a matter of fact.

On February 16, 1965, Mr. Speaker Macnaughton found a prima facie case of privilege concerning the RCMP's arrest of an opposition member of Parliament. On September 4, 1973, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux found a prima facie case of privilege concerning the RCMP interrogation of an opposition member. On March 21, 1978, Mr. Speaker Jerome found a prima facie case of privilege concerning the RCMP's electronic surveillance—spying, in other words—of an opposition MP. On December 6, 1978, Mr. Speaker Jerome found a prima facie case of privilege concerning the RCMP misleading a former minister concerning the information he provided to opposition parliamentarians.

On December 1, 2004, Mr. Speaker Milliken found a prima facie case of privilege concerning the RCMP blocking MPs' access to Parliament Hill. On April 10, 2008, Mr. Speaker Milliken found a prima facie case of privilege following the false and misleading evidence given to the public accounts committee by the RCMP's then deputy commissioner.

On March 15, 2012, your immediate predecessor, Mr. Speaker, found a prima facie case of privilege when the RCMP denied MPs access to Centre Block. On September 25, 2014, another prima facie case of privilege was established related to the RCMP's denial of access to Parliament Hill. On May 12, 2015, two incidents of MPs being denied access to Centre Block by the RCMP led to yet another prima facie case of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, you have also needed to deal with these issues. On April 6 and 11, 2017, you found prima facie cases of privilege flowing out of MPs' access being denied by the Parliamentary Protective Service, an organization that, of course, has a clear legal relationship with the RCMP.

Even on the Senate side, the RCMP was found to have committed a prima facie case of contempt by Mr. Speaker Kinsella, on May 8, 2013, following its efforts to thwart parliamentary task force members from appearing as witnesses before a committee.

It goes without saying that it comes as absolutely no surprise that our national police force would snub its nose at Parliament yet again. Even more distressing is that the minister responsible for the RCMP, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is one of the most experienced members of the House and a former House leader. The minister should be urging respect for Parliament by his officials. The RCMP is not above the law and not above the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, if you agree there is a prima facie case of contempt here, I am prepared to move an appropriate motion.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 22nd, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments, also known as “the bill to change the rules to favour the Liberals because they cannot fundraise competitively, and other consequential amendments”. However, that is just the working title.

I appreciate that the minister for electoral reform has come back to the House. The job done previous to her by the treasury board president has been a mess. Now the treasury board president has shown once again that he is not up to the job, whether it is watching Bill C-58 , the Access to Information Act, or his complicity in ignoring reports that Phoenix was not ready, or his attempt to pass off his $7 billion estimate slush fund as transparency.

The acting Chief Electoral Officer had made it 100% clear to the government and Parliament a year ago that he would need legislative changes completed by April 28 in order to have time to be ready for the fall 2019 election, not starting debate and not introducing the legislation by April 28, but completely finished by April 28, through the House and Senate. However, here we are. Instead of having legislation debated and passed through the Senate by now, the Liberals are now just starting.

Let us go back a bit. Following the 2015 election, Elections Canada provided a list of recommendations for changes. The procedures committee was looking at these recommendations for a report to bring back to the House. Then out of nowhere the government dropped in our lap Bill C-33 , an act to amend the Canada Elections Act. Before the report from the committee was completed, the Liberals introduced a bill with incomplete information.

The Liberals rushed in a flawed bill, ignoring the procedures committee, and promptly did absolutely nothing for an entire year. If we add in the inability to appoint a permanent chief elections officer, the cynical Bill C-50 to distract from their cash for access scandals, and the desire to create a debates commission, we have typical Liberal ineptness. Well done, mission accomplished.

How did we get here? We went through the sham consultations a year and a half ago on the electoral reform. It was the same consultation meant to change the voting process from first pass the post to a system that would of course favour the Liberals. This is from their website, and it is still up, “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

Henry James, considered by many as one of the greatest novelists in the English language, has said, “To read between the lines was easier than to follow the text.” If we read between the lines of “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, we get if and only if the Liberals get the system they want, one that would guarantee Liberal re-election, then 2015 will be the last under the first-past-the-post system. Further reading between the lines we also see, “If we don't get the system that favours only the Liberals, then we'll abandon the plan”.

It is funny that when we go to the Liberal mandate tracker it shows electoral reform as not being pursued. It is not a broken promise, or thrown into trash or not being pursued. If we go down a bit further on the mandate tracker and look under “Balance the budget”, which is also in their mandate letter to balance the budget by 2019, it says “Underway - with challenges”. There are tens of billions of added debt. Maybe the budget will be balanced by 2045, but we do not know as the finance minister will not answer.

The Liberals are adding $43 billion in debt from when it was supposed to be balanced in 2019 in the mandate to the end of where the budget shows in 2022-23, with $75 billion of added debt over the period from being elected to 2022-23. This is what they call “Underway - with challenges”.

At the operations committee, we asked representatives of the Privy Council Office about this. Privy Council runs this mandate tracker website. We asked them why they would put out this information. It was very clearly a lie and misinformation. They said that the finance department told them to. I feel badly for the Privy Council having to sit at committee and defend such disingenuous information.

Let us go back to Bill C-76 and look at some of the measures in the bill to change the rules that favour the Liberals, because they cannot competitively fundraise, and other consequential amendments. It allows the Chief Electoral Officer to authorize the voter information card as a piece of ID. This is not a voter ID card, as some people are trying to pass it off as; it is a voter information card. People can head to the polls with that piece, which was mailed to them, and vote.

Here are some fun facts from the last election. Non-Canadian citizens were sent the card in the mail, even though they were not eligible to vote. Cards went out with the wrong names. People were directed to the wrong polling station, sometimes 100 kilometres away. There was a 1.5% error rate on the 26.5 billion cards that were sent out, which means 400,000 people got cards with wrong names, wrong addresses, and so on.

In the 2011 election, before that one, three-quarters of a million Canadians moved during the 36-day writ period.

Elections Canada says that the voters list that it draws the cards from is just a snapshot in time. We are going to base the entire integrity of our election on a snapshot in time? Elections Canada says that it cannot even check the voters list to ensure that those on the list receiving the cards are actually Canadians.

To summarize, hundreds of thousands of incorrect cards are going out and three-quarters of a million people are moving during a standard election period. Over a million people potentially could have the wrong card or have someone else's card. Elections Canada is stating that there is no way to check if the cards are going out to Canadian citizens. The integrity of democracy is based on what Elections Canada calls a “snapshot in time”.

This bill would allow Canadians living abroad to vote regardless of how long they have lived outside the country and whether they intend to return. Right now it is five years. It is being challenged before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not even ruled on this yet and the Liberal government will bring in changes to allow anyone, regardless of how long they have been out of country, to vote.

Three million Canadians are living abroad, wonderful people, spreading the word of hockey in Canada around the world. However, should we allow those who have no intention of ever returning to Canada to help decide our policies in our country? The Ontario Court of Appeals, which ruled on the five year law, stated that it was democratically justified because it preserved the social contract between voters and lawmakers.

I know the Liberal government loves social licence, social licence for pipelines and for everything else, but I wish it would respect the social contract as has been decided by the Ontario courts.

There is no requirement that any of these expats have to vote in the last riding they lived in or even have visited one of the ridings. My brother, Bob, who left the country about 18 years ago, lives in New Jersey. He has never once stepped foot in my riding of Edmonton West. Should he be allowed to vote in my riding, even though he has never stepped foot in it and left Canada about 18 years ago? I have to wonder how many ridings across Canada in the last election were settled or won by less than 1,000 votes.

Concerted efforts by unfriendly foreign regimes could easily swing ridings by those with no skin in the game. Again, should people with perhaps no roots here and no family here and who perhaps pay no taxes and have not stepped foot in Canada for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years be deciding our foreign policy or what communities are getting funds for infrastructure? Should those who have zero intent of returning be deciding who sits in these chairs in the House?

I mentioned my brother. I love him dearly and still feel bad about knocking his teeth out playing hockey years ago, but I do not think he should be eligible to vote in Canada. He left many years ago.

I want to talk about the ID issue. We heard a lot of misinformation and saw hand-wringing throughout this debate about voter suppression under the Fair Elections Act. Let us look at the truth and the facts. Under the Fair Elections Act, we had an 11.5% increase in voter turnout in the 2015 election. It surged.

Here are some of the IDs that people could use: certificate of citizenship, citizenship card, Indian status card, band membership card, Métis card, old age security card, hospital card, CNIB card, credit card, debit card, and employee card. There is over 60 valid pieces of ID that can be used. People can even get a note from a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter to use as ID.

The bill would allow a maximum of third-party spending to soar through the roof, to allow Tides Foundation in the U.S.A., and Russian influence in Tides, to influence our election here. It is wrong. We have seen the issue of Facebook data misuse and Russian hacking. The bill would allow money from these groups to influence our vote.

We have seen the government try to change the rules when it falters. The Liberals changed the fundraising rules and they tried to change our rules in this place when they found the opposition to be too effective. They tried to change how Canadians voted to rig the next election. Now the government is botching this bill.

Bill C-76 is an omnibus of a mess and should be dismissed.

Elections Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 22nd, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, even if I do not agree with him entirely. This bill does not address the issue of government advertising, but the President of the Treasury Board did.

My colleague also spoke abut the funding of political parties. One thing addressed by Bill C-50 was the transparency of fundraising, which is done by all political parties in the House. Will the members of my colleague's party support that proposal? Will they publicly state who attends their fundraisers?

My colleague also seems worried about the cap on donations, whether it is $1,500 or $100. I would like to know if he has a figure in mind or whether he would simply prefer to restore the former system where political parties received a per-vote subsidy, which would help the Bloc Québécois.

May 22nd, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Stéphane Perrault

The first thing I mentioned was that in many ways the proposed legislation provides the CEO with discretion to do certain activities or not to do them, to redo the voting procedures at the poll in a different way. We will not redo the voting procedures at regular polls for this next election. This is something that I told this committee last February, because of where we were in the cycle. We are, however, working on the advance poll scenario.

The bill also allows us to provide a new service, which is a mobile advance poll. In remote areas, where there are often not enough populational workers to support four days of advance polling, we could do mobile advance polls. At this point, we do not know whether we'll be leveraging that capacity, because it has an impact on some of our systems to produce the voter information card, and the priority will go to system changes that are mandated by the legislation. That's an example.

There are major changes to the political finance regime that have impact upon IT systems. We will focus on those changes that are critical to process the reimbursements for candidates and the party returns.

Some of the reports, whether related to Bill C-50, the fundraising report, or third parties, will be posted in PDFs. A PDF is searchable online, but it's not searchable across reports. The level of transparency by PDF report is thus not optimal. Of course, in the future we'll move away from PDFs, but for this election, this is the kind of compromise we have to make to ensure that we are ready to roll out the election in an orderly way.

April 24th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Stéphane Perrault Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is a pleasure to be back before the committee today to present Elections Canada's Main Estimates for 2018-19. This appearance also provides the opportunity to highlight the calendar of key activities that remain to prepare for the next general election, particularly in light of potential important legislative changes.

Today, the committee is voting on Election Canada's annual appropriation, which is $30.8 million and represents the salaries of some 360 indeterminate positions. Combined with our statutory authority, which funds all other expenditures under the Canada Elections Act, our Main Estimates total $135.2 million.

There are now at most 16 months left before the start of the next general election. Of course, we do not know exactly when it will begin, but there are at most 16 months before the start of the next election, and less time than that for Elections Canada to achieve a full state of readiness, for which our target date is April 2019. We are giving ourselves some flexibility between April and the start of the election in case any last-minute adjustments are needed.

A strict calendar of activities serves to ensure that changes to the electoral process and its administration are well tested before they are deployed and used by some 300,000 elections workers during the election.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to explain key aspects of our readiness calendar. This is particularly important should legislative changes be introduced late in the electoral cycle.

There are some 40 IT systems that are critical to the services we provide to electors, candidates, and political parties in the context of the delivery of an election. A majority of these systems will be new or will have gone through significant changes for the next general election. The importance of these changes is a reflection of the need to improve services for Canadians as well as renew aging technology and enhance cybersecurity.

I'm glad to say that work on these systems is progressing well. Over this summer, we will be migrating 27 of these systems and associated databases to our new data centre, which is currently being built. The new data centre is essential to provide the flexibility and the security required to deliver the election in the current environment.

Starting September 1, we will subject all systems to a full round of integrated testing that replicates the activities and transactions of a general election.

Through the fall and winter, we will perform necessary adjustments to our systems and rerun testing cycles until we are satisfied that they are capable of sustaining the requirements, volumes, and pressures of an actual general election.

In March 2019 we plan to hold a simulation of the election process in several electoral districts. This is an exercise we did prior to the last general election as well. The purpose of this exercise is to see how the new business processes and technology that will be used at the next general election perform in a simulated setting, including interactions between local offices and headquarters.

By April 2019 we will also have designed, produced, and largely assembled electoral supplies and materials so that they can be progressively deployed to the 338 electoral districts.

Finally, in the spring of 2019 we will then have also trained all returning officers and have completed and tested the training modules for the poll workers who will be hired for the general election. The training program for returning officers is largely delivered online, and must undergo stringent quality assurance and testing processes before it is rolled out to field administrators, more than a third of whom will be new at the next election.

This is our readiness plan under the current legal framework.

Now, as you know, following the last general election, we made some 130 recommendations for legislative improvements. Many have been endorsed—endorsed unanimously, I should say—by this committee. In its response, the government has indicated that it broadly supports the recommendations for change, and has put forward additional proposals for improvements. These are over and above the proposals already contained in Bill C-33 and Bill C-50, which are currently before Parliament, not to mention private members' bills.

Considering the above, it is pressing for legislative changes to be made without delay if they are to be implemented for the next general election.

When I appeared last February, I indicated that the window of opportunity to implement major changes in time for the next election was rapidly closing. That was not a new message. Both Monsieur Mayrand and I had previously indicated that legislative changes should be enacted by April 2018. This means that we are now at a point where the implementation of new legislation will likely involve some compromises. Let me explain.

Should legislative changes be enacted over the coming year, the agency will need to minimize, as much as possible, changes to existing systems and applications. There are considerable risks in introducing last-minute changes to complex IT systems if there is not enough time to test them thoroughly. As indicated earlier, our window for integrated testing is September 2018, therefore there may not be sufficient time to automate new processes. Less optimal paper or manual solutions may have to be used instead.

Moreover, to the extent that legislative changes impact rules for political entities—and I'm referring here in particular to political financing rules—there will be only a short window of time to complete the necessary steps for renewing all of the manuals and consulting with all the parties, as well as the Commissioner of Canada Elections, on the changes being made, as required by law now. The same is also true for instructions required of field personnel. Last-minute updates to poll worker training and manuals reduce the time for quality control and testing in advance of the election.

Of course, Mr. Chair, our mandate is to implement the changes that Parliament decides to enact, and we will find ways to do that if and when legislation is introduced and passed. However, it is also my responsibility to inform you that time is quickly running out. Canadians trust Elections Canada to deliver robust and reliable elections, and we do not want to find ourselves in a situation where the quality of the electoral process is impacted. Should legislation be introduced, we will, of course, support the work of this committee, including informing members of operational impacts and implementation strategies.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. As usual, my colleagues and I will be happy to answer questions that members may have.

EthicsOral Questions

March 29th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, we are taking concrete action to improve our already strong and robust rules around political fundraising events. That is why the Minister of Democratic Institutions introduced Bill C-50, which will give more information to Canadians than ever before by letting them know who is going to fundraisers, when they will be happening, and the amount required to attend.

Canadians have a right to know and understand, more than they do now, about fundraising events attended by the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and party leadership contestants. We encourage all members in the House to join us in working to build a more open and transparent fundraising system for Canada.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

March 1st, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-364, introduced by the member for Terrebonne.

This private member's bill, Bill C-364, would amend Canada's Elections Act and Income Tax Act in the following ways.

First, it would substantially lower the contribution limits to political entities. For example, it would reduce the maximum annual contribution that individuals could make to each registered political party from $1,550 down to $500, which is a reduction of more than two-thirds, and would make similar reductions for other political entities, such as candidates and leadership contestants.

Further, it would reinstate the quarterly allowance to political parties. This allowance was introduced initially in 2004 and then phased out in 2015. Finally, it would amend the Income Tax Act to increase the tax credit benefit for those contributing more than $750.

I would like to say that while I appreciate the member for Terrebonne's efforts to improve political financing in Canada, I also want to flag that there are elements of the bill that are cause for concern. First, this legislation is expensive. In fact, the parliamentary budget office website states with respect to the bill:

PBO estimates that, in total, the cost to the federal government will be $45.2 million in 2018, increasing to $46.2 million in 2021. The reintroduction of a quarterly allowance, which is paid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to registered political parties, represents the overwhelming majority of the cost.

However, this is a time when our government is focusing federal resources on top priority issues like affordable housing, climate action, pharmacare, and help for the middle class and those working hard to join it. These are just a few examples of the work we are embarking on as a result of listening to the concerns of Canadians.

Our government knows that Canadians have good reason to be proud of our democracy. We will always have more work to do to make it even better, and we are going about that work. However, we cannot forget that there are already considerable supports existing in the system, specifically generous tax credits for financial contributors. Candidates and parties are also reimbursed for, or rebated, a significant portion of their campaign expenses from Elections Canada.

The tax credit for donations in 2015 cost the treasury an estimated $55 million. After the 2015 election, $60.7 million was reimbursed to parties and another $42.7 million went to the official agents for candidates' campaigns, for a total cost to Canadians of $158 million. Had Bill C-364 been in place in 2015, the total cost over the subsequent four years would have been $278 million, an increase of 76% over the actual costs. That number does not even include other subsidies contained in the Canada Elections Act, such as the provision of broadcasting time to registered parties.

Another financial concern is that this legislation would give larger tax breaks to those contributing more than $750. The Department of Finance predicts that this could result in a decline in federal revenues by up to $2 million in years when there is a leadership contest under way. I would also argue that this would be a regressive tax change. It would allow wealthier Canadians to receive a larger benefit for their donations.

The bill also removes the ceiling on what could be claimed under its provisions. By extension, this would be most beneficial to the wealthiest Canadians. Yet another concern is that this bill would drop contribution limits to leadership contestants from $1,550 to $1,000.

As members know, 2017 was the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We all know that Canadians deeply value our charter, and we know it is a model for new democracies around the world. Section 3 of the charter guarantees every eligible Canadian citizen the right to vote and to run in an election. Section 2, which includes the freedoms of association and expression, gives Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to donate to a party. This right is of course subject to reasonable limitations.

Political parties are a necessary and important part of our democratic process. They unite people who come from different geographic regions. They unite people who have different perspectives. Parties help to mobilize citizens around ideas they cherish. As former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci said, “Political parties provide individual citizens with an opportunity to express an opinion on the policy and functioning of government.”

Canadians participate in our democracy not just by voting or donating to a party. They can also become politically active as a party volunteer. However, many Canadians do not have either the time or desire to support parties in that way, so for some, donating is how they choose to have their voices heard.

This is one of the big reasons why our government believes strongly in maintaining a balanced, open, and transparent political financing system. Be assured that we are continuing to review the rules for political financing to ensure that Canada has a balanced approach.

Another aspect of political fundraising that our government has been focused on is Bill C-50, which has recently passed third reading in the House of Commons, and is now being deliberated in the Senate. Bill C-50 would ensure that any fundraising activity, which costs more than $200, where a cabinet minister, including the Prime Minister are present, or a party leader or a leadership contestant is in attendance, must be reported five days in advance on the party's website, and the guest list must be disclosed publicly. This kind of reporting will ensure that Canadians have a more open and transparent fundraising system.

What is also interesting about Bill C-50 is that both Conservative Party members, and several newly independent members of this House, voted against this legislation, which, as I mentioned, would increase transparency in our political system. It is important to note that this also includes the member for Terrebonne, whose name is on the very bill we are now debating. He too voted against this important legislation improving our political system for Canadians.

The member for Terrebonne chose to bring Bill C-364 forward to the House. This bill would benefit wealthier donors by increasing their tax credits. As well, he and his colleagues voted against bringing greater transparency to fundraisers. These actions would move our democracy backward, not forward.

In addition to Bill C-50, the Minister of Democratic Institutions is also moving our democracy forward by ensuring more, and not fewer Canadians, have access to voting with as few barriers as possible. This is done through repealing elements of the previous government's so-called Fair Elections Act. We are also moving our democracy forward by focusing on protecting our democratic institutions from foreign influence in our elections.

In partnership with the Communications Security Establishment, we released a first-of-its-kind in the world report on cyber threats to our democracy. As technology changes and evolves, so must our efforts to defend from those wishing to disrupt our Canadian democracy.

To further move our democracy forward, the Prime Minister tasked the Minister of Democratic Institutions to examine and present options for a commission or commissioner to organize leaders' debates during federal elections. In support of that, the minister and I were happy to participate in cross-Canada meetings with stakeholders from the broadcast media, new media, civil society, and academia to listen to their views on this important issue.

Our government is focused on moving forward and not backward. We are focused on strengthening our democratic institutions. We are focused on matters that unite Canadians, and not on those that divide Canadians. For this reason, the government cannot support Bill C-364.

We must ensure that the conditions are fair for political parties, and at the same time recognize that Canadians have a democratic right to actively participate in their democracy by means of reasonable contributions.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

February 15th, 2018 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased that the House passed Bill C-50 at third reading this week, legislation that represents the next step in the strengthening of our political fundraising rules, making fundraising events involving ministers and party leaders more open and transparent than ever before.

I was disappointed, however, that the official opposition voted against openness and transparency in fundraising. However, I look forward to the next step and the progress of making sure that Canadians have more information than ever before when it comes to political fundraising events here in Canada.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to an order made on Friday, February 9, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-50.

The House resumed from February 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), be read the third time and passed.